The Corner

Sports

A Talk with Jim Harbaugh, Quarterback and Coach

Coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines during a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium, November 30, 2019 (Tim Fuller/USA Today Sports/Reuters)

Enjoy a new Q&A, here. My guest is Jim Harbaugh, the coach of the University of Michigan football team. We are old friends, as I explained in a post last fall.

Jim was the quarterback of that very same University of Michigan team in the mid-1980s. Then he went to the NFL, where he played for 14 years. Mainly with the Bears and the Colts. Then it was coaching: the University of San Diego, Stanford University, the San Francisco 49ers — and back to Michigan.

We grew up together, in Ann Arbor. Best athlete I ever saw.

So, he’s in “home isolation,” I’m in “home isolation” — you’re in “home isolation” — and we got together (via technology) for a little talk. A long talk, actually. A long and leisurely one.

We talk about sports of various kinds. David French says that quarterback is the most important position of any sport — more than pitcher, point guard, etc. Does Harbs agree? (Yes.) For one thing, you touch the ball every time, and the ball is awfully important.

You may know my favorite quarterback story — one I’ve told before, and one I tell Jim, on this podcast. Jack Kemp was on the House floor once, talking about tax policy. His family was observing in the gallery. Some guy sitting behind the family said to his wife, “What does Kemp know about economics? He was a football player.” Kemp’s little daughter turned around and said to the man, “My daddy was not a football player. He was a quarterback.”

I ask Jim, “Can just anyone throw a spiral?” He goes into how to do it. You know who can throw a really good spiral? Martina Navratilova, the tennis great. That’s what Jim says. You know who else throws a really good one? Maybe this is unsurprising: Nolan Ryan, the great pitcher.

Jim has met people from many walks of life, including athletes, of course — but also presidents, first ladies, Supreme Court justices, popes, movie stars . . . He’s played golf with Kevin Costner. (And Lee Trevino.)

We talk coaching, of course: Does the coach get too much credit, and too much blame? What’s the difference between coaching college kids and coaching multi-millionaires in the pros? We do some reminiscing (going way, way back). (I bad-mouth Stone Elementary School, mainly to tick off my friend Eddie Krause, a distinguished alumnus of that institution.) And we even get into some politics and society, including abortion.

So, you got a rambling conversation between two old friends, classmates, and teammates, which you may enjoy, in this strange period when so many things seem to be on hold.

Again, here.

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